Boss reflects on goalless draw with Fulham at the DW Stadium.
- Gary Caldwell praises his side’s performance as they draw 0-0 with Fulham.
- Boss concerned by injury to Alex Gilbey.
- Praise for early Latics Wall Man of the Match leader Shaun MacDonald.
Wigan Athletic manager Gary Caldwell praised his side’s performance as they produced a dominant display to almost defeat Slavisa Jokanovic’s in-form Fulham at the DW Stadium on Saturday.
Latics were held to a goalless draw but substitute Nick Powell almost won it late on, seeing his curling effort wonderfully saved by Cottagers goalkeeper David Button.
Reflecting post-match, Caldwell admitted his side produced their best performance of the season in certain aspects to arrest a run of form that had seen Latics lose their four previous fixtures.
“It was another good performance but obviously we are disappointed not to win,” Caldwell said. “I thought the first-half was probably the best half of the season against a good side that cause you problems with how they play because they get people between lines and the full backs go high too.
“It was two teams who really wanted to play and at half-time I felt it was 50:50; second-half we were more dominant, we got a hold of the game more, restricted them on the ball and that meant that they went more direct which I felt played into our hands because it allowed us to gain control.
“We were just missing that final piece of putting the ball in the net and it just wasn’t there.
“I cannot fault anything in how we played; off the ball, I thought it was our best performance of the season because we were hungry to win the ball back and we defended well. It’s a start we have to build on.”
On top of not collecting three points, Caldwell’s disappointment was compounded by losing midfielder Alex Gilbey in the first-half to injury.
The 21-year-old has been used regularly used this season by his new manager and Caldwell admitted the early prognosis isn’t great after he went down in the first-half to be replaced by Nathan Byrne, Latics’ deadline day signing from Wolves.
“We are not 100% sure on Alex, but it doesn’t look great and it could be a bad one,” Caldwell admitted. “He went to the hospital after the game so fingers crossed it isn’t too bad – at the moment it seems anyone who plays in that position gets injured.
“I thought Nathan did great; he is still short of fitness and match fitness but I thought he showed great energy levels. We didn’t want to bring him on that early, but we had to and I am sure he will gain a lot from that in terms of game time.
“He is still way short of the fitness levels he needs to show his best game but I am sure he will be a massive player for us.”
One of the most pleasing aspects of the day was Latics keeping just their second clean sheet of the season, giving themselves a platform to build on in their upcoming matches.
“The most pleasing aspect of the day was the desire off the ball from everyone,” Caldwell explained. “I felt we were the more aggressive team today; we made tackles, we made fouls and you have to do that if you want to win games, you have to be hungry to win games.
“When the ball did come into the box, I thought we defended it well, Adam [Bogdan] come and collected crosses, the centre halves put their bodies on the line, and we thoroughly deserved the clean sheet.”
Latics Wall’s early leader in the vote for today’s Man of the Match was midfielder Shaun MacDonald, who impressed in the middle of the park, and Caldwell agreed with supporters who voted for the Welsh international.
“I felt it was Shaun’s best game since he has come to the club,” he added. “I think he is a player that is improving fitness-wise; he has not played a lot of football in the last few years so he needs games to show his best form but today he was everywhere.
“He closed people down, plugged holes in the back four when they came about and then he got on the ball and got our attacks going.
“I think there is progress from him and still a lot more to come once his fitness increases.”